Pictures speak a thousand words. That is true when it comes to the popularity of Bollywood movies than interesting books. Both belong to the story telling media, but the difference in genre says it all.
Indian By Choice might just be another book about America Born Confused Desi (ABCD), but it comes with rich graphics in 100 pages, and from a writer who is a serving diplomat, it tells the story we need to know again-- identity and what it means to an Indian.
Mandy aka Mandeep comes to India reluctantly for a cousin's wedding. As he reaches India, his biggest fear of squalor, over-population, lack of privacy and a land of totall chaos are just confirmed, It is as different a country to him as it would be for any American tourist.
So instead of adapting or even wanting to know about this alien culture, he writes long letters to his parents and tell them about his plight. He would have taken the first flight back to his home in Chicago, but the fare lets him stay in India for four weeks.
Mandy at first comes across as this confident guy (portrayed as Ranbir Kapoor in graphics) who is – UsS citizen born and raised in Chicago. He believes in the NRI culture and India for him has nothing to offer. But this rare opportunity of being in India allows Mandy to spend time with his extended family, including his grandparents and cousins, and provokes him to re-think his identity.
By spending time with other young Indians, Mandy's stereotypes about India begin to disappear and he begins to see the other side of not only India but the US as well.
For example, he learns that a young Indian Institute of Management (IIM) graduate rejects a chance to work in the US because he is conscious that he will face subtle racism while trying to climb the corporate ladder. Or that a Sikh was gunned down in a retaliatory attack four days post 9/11. Gradually, Mandy begins to wonder whether he can identify with his host country.
Indian by Choice cleverly reveals the differences between Indian Americans and their counterparts in India. Dasgupta keeps the reader engaged at all times and will often leave you laughing out loud. The keen sense of observation, wit, the graphics and the style make this a truly unique novel that both NRIs and Indians will be able to identity with.
In fact, renowned author Shashi Tharoor writes that "this graphic novel is a gift every urban Indian should give to an NRI relative".
Towards the end of the novel, when it is time for Mandy to leave India, ironically he is overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness. There is no doubt that he will miss his larger family and his friends. The interactions which were strained at first develop into strong bonds of mutual affection.
On his flight back to Chicago, rather than introducing himself as Mandy as he usually would, he tells his fellow passenger that his name is Mandeep. He identifies himself as an Indian, not by force, but by choice.